By Saqib Iqbal Ahmed

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The U.S. dollar fell across the board on Wednesday, after data showed U.S. business activity weakened further in November and as traders remained on edge ahead of the impending release of minutes from the Federal Reserve's November meeting.

"Fed minutes will be the focus for today," said Brad Bechtel, global head of FX at Jefferies.

"This is the meeting where Powell had a relatively hawkish press conference in which he indicated that if there had been an SEP (Summary of Economic Projections) at this meeting they would have definitely come out with a higher terminal rate. So the meeting minutes are likely to get into detail around this concept and therefore come with a hawkish bent," Bechtel said.

After a headlong rush this year to raise interest rates, the Fed switched this month to a more nuanced approach that was seen as a compromise between officials most concerned about high inflation and others worried that more large rises in borrowing costs might crater the economy or stress key markets.

The minutes of the Nov. 1-2 policy meeting, scheduled to be released later on Wednesday, may show just how deep any emerging disagreement has begun to run at the U.S. central bank as it ends the push to "front-load" rate increases and begins feeling the way in smaller steps to an eventual stopping point.

The euro rose 0.6% against the dollar to $1.0362, on pace for a second straight session of gains.

U.S. business activity contracted for a fifth straight month in November, with a measure of new orders dropping to its lowest level in 2-1/2 years as higher interest rates slowed demand.

Other data showed the number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits increased more than expected last week, even though labor market conditions remain tight.

The dollar has rallied against every major currency this year, boosted by the Federal Reserve's supersized interest rate hikes as it battles inflation. But recent cooler-than-expected U.S. consumer price data has spurred investors' hopes that the Fed may be in a position to moderate its pace of hikes.

Against the yen, the dollar slipped 0.8% to 140.155 yen.

Sterling shot higher on Wednesday, rising for a second straight day against a faltering U.S. dollar after preliminary British economic activity data beat expectations, though it still showed contraction was underway.

The pound was last up 1.14$ at $1.2018.

The New Zealand dollar hit a three-month high, after the country's central bank lifted interest rates by a record amount despite warning the economy might spend an entire year in recession.

The kiwi was up 1.1% on the day at $0.6221.

The Reserve Bank of New Zealand raised its benchmark rate by 75 basis points to 4.25% – the highest of any G10 economy – and said it may need to increase faster than previously indicated.

Cryptocurrencies, which has come under intense selling following the high profile collapse of crypto exchange FTX, remained choppy, with bitcoin up 1.7% at $16,471.

(Reporting by Saqib Iqbal Ahmed; Editing by Nick Zieminski)

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